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Middle-Schooler Puts New Ham Radio License To Work After Storm

HBy RELMA HARGUS

Advocate staff writer
Published: Feb 18, 2006

Michael Taboada’s expertise as a licensed amateur radio operator proved useful during Hurricane Katrina.

The Glasgow Middle School seventh-grader earned his FCC-granted technician class license last year.

“Basically what I did was relay messages between people who needed to contact each other but couldn’t,” Michael said.

The usual reason for failing to be able to contact each other was either “they didn’t know how to find each other” or they were too far away from each other, Michael said.

“But I was close enough to both to hear them,” he said.

Michael said initially he was merely following the conversations on the two repeaters active during the hurricane on his personal ham radio equipment.

Electricity was out at his house and so he was rationing his radio time.

“I was listening on and off, whenever I could,” he said. “I started with a fully charged battery so I had 16 hours.”

If Michael had not earlier passed the test, which demonstrated his knowledge of basic regulations, operating practices and electronics theory, he could only have listened to the conversations.

Without his own call sign, earned by passing the test, he would have been unable to help without supervision of a licensed operator.
“Whenever I had a chance, if anyone needed help I could help them.”

Ruth Merrell, manager of volunteers and community services with the Louisiana Capital Area chapter of the American Red Cross, said, “If it weren’t for the ham radio operators during Hurricane Katrina we would have been in real trouble because all communications had broken down.”

Two specific incidents where he knows his service was helpful:

n  When Michael realized radio operators at the Red Cross headquarters were switching to a different repeater, he offered to tell each of the Red Cross shelters about the change. Headquarters accepted the offer.

n  For “some strange reason,” Michael said, the Louisiana Emergency Office of Communications and the Texas EOC became unlinked.

“The Texas EOC was trying to call in and I happened to be listening in. I relayed the messages.”

“I was just glad I could do a part,” Michael said. “Confirm something or do something.”